Pretty City Wrap Up Their European Tour
Olivia Gliku | On 01, Dec 2017
We recently had the pleasure of chatting with Johnny Rock, the guitarist and vocalist of Melbourne psychedelic rock band, Pretty City. The past year has been massive for Pretty City. They’ve released their debut album, Colorize, the Nothing Happens for Free single, and spent their November touring Europe.
First, Johnny talked us through how Pretty City came to be. He acknowledged that while you can find “likeminded friends to create music with” by chance or hard work, you’re not always guaranteed results as a band.
“For us, Hughâ€™s keen sense in finding the right mix of people for his initial musical vision proved right on the money. The three founding members were on each otherâ€™s periphery for some time, and when the timing was right, he got us all together. Ken, our newest member, likewise had been on our periphery, having played many shows with his band in the past. It was only a matter of time before we found ourselves in a van touring Europe!”
Over the past month, Pretty City did just that. We caught Johnny on the last leg of the 23-date tour, and he let us in on how the band were feeling during the “great” experience.
“It was daunting looking at playing so many shows in such a short period of time. But the challenge has been keeping the performances of a high standard every night, not just when itâ€™s a Saturday night or when we feel like it. Every gig has to be a Saturday night!”
“There are a couple of logistical differences, like most shows, weâ€™re the only band on unlike at home, which is usually a standard three band lineup. As such, we also generally start earlier and play for longer than the standard 30-45 min sets. Itâ€™s more like an hour to an hour and a half or two sets. Thatâ€™s been challenging, creating an engaging and interesting set for people to watch for that long as well as keep us from getting exhausted by mid set! But on the other side of things the audiences have been really excited and appreciative of us coming out.”
Their European tour wasn’t Pretty City’s first rodeo. They’ve taken to the stage at iconic events like Canadian Music Week and SXSW in the US.
“They were great! Itâ€™s always good playing to new audiences. You donâ€™t really realise how people in different countries respond differently to audiences at home. Some songs will resonate and others wonâ€™t. Sometimes that can throw you off but the challenge is delivering a stand out performance without losing your cool. That separates bands at conferences like that. The bands who can not only handle the pressure, but are dynamic and fluid enough to read an audience and adapt to it on the fly are the ones that stand out. Playing like that is a lot of fun for us… so we loved the conferences.”
Pretty City do an impressive job of combining their mixed musical influences into one cohesive sound. Johnny talked us through how the members’ mixed backgrounds impact their sound.
“Hugh is into very chordal and melodic music, but also thumping guitar riffs! Bands like Cream and Brit poppers, Oasis feature heavily in his influences. Drew, our drummer, comes from a funk background but loves everything from Pink Floyd to The Smashing Pumpkins. Ken is a punk rocker at heart, The Ramones and Blink 182. I myself am a bit of an adrenaline junkie. Fast, upbeat indie. Thus frenetic, bright lead guitar solos are my forte.”
“By coming from different angles, we bring new flavours to songs. If we were all exclusively into one genre or the other then the music we create can sound quite formulaic and generic. The fight between us all trying to pull the song one way or the other just by our own tastes means that even a straight up rock ‘n’ roll track will sound more interesting. We always surprise and interest each other too which is exciting.”
Listening to tracks like Nothing Happens for Free, it’s easy to see how Pretty City built up enough hype to head on their European tour. Johnny told us about the miscommunication that gave the song a whole new meaning.
“Itâ€™s an angsty song that came out of our frustrations of the commoditisation of music and I guess life in general! But interestingly the song is ambiguous on its message. Hugh sings the line ‘nothing happens for free accept this feeling’ as quite a pessimistic undercurrent pinning the song. But I thought he was singing ‘except this feeling’ illustrating my never ending optimism in life! Which is what I sing during the chorus. It was never realised until we recorded it so we kept it like that.”
“The dichotomy works, as the protagonists internal monologue battle it out on what to feel. To me, the one thing that is always free is the feeling of euphoria from writing or performing a song. All those other things that cost money around that song come after. They donâ€™t even exist without a song being written. To me, thatâ€™s very comforting. That music at its essence is free. You can feel any emotion you want for free and thereâ€™s nothing the ‘industry’ can do to change that.”
Pretty City are about to wrap up a huge year, and 2018 doesn’t look like it will be any quieter. Johnny says that we can look forward to the release of their new album, which includes tracks that they’ve already been performing live, along with some surprises. They’ll also be back on the road, and plan on releasing some music videos. You can keep track of all their latest news here.